Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coolers for Traveling

> Subject: Coolers for traveling
> Glad to hear that the airlines still accept coolers as
> check-in luggage. Any ball park idea how much the 100-
> gallon cooler weights whenloaded?

I, and many professionals, use the larger Coleman and Igloo coolers. I jokingly state that these coolers offer the highest volume to weight ratio of any container that offers the necessary stiffness and rigidity to protect your gear. I’ve been traveling with these for years. I have never been able to tie knots, so I traveled with two or three of these coolers in the early years by taping them up with duct tape. However, after 9/11, I had to devise a method by which TSA could easily and quickly open up the coolers. I stole an idea from my friends Howard Hall and Bob Cranston (something I do routinely) and have one eyebolt bolted into each end of the cooler. The eyebolt goes through the cooler, and there are washers on both sides of the eyebolt. I then bought long aluminum bars from Orchard Supply Hardware, had them bent 90 degrees so that I ended up with a “U” shaped bar that fits snugly over the top of the cooler. A hole in each end of the bar allows the bar to fit over the eyebolts. I then put locks in the eyebolts to keep the bar over the cooler, but now, I just use hitch pins so that TSA can get into the coolers easily.

These coolers weigh and cost very little compared to conventional camera cases, I use the coolers in 100 gallon sizes for checked baggage. I store my tripods, dive gear, underwater housings, some camera gear, and clothes in these. One advantage of coolers for diving gear and underwater cameras is that you can just fill them up with fresh water for rinsing, then drain from the bottom after your trip. I have traveled with these for 20 years now, and have never had a problem with an airline not accepting them. They just barely fit under ( or perhaps just barely exceed) the standard airline dimensions for checked baggage. Any cooler larger than 100 gallon (like the huge ones at Costco) might be too big for airlines.

My favorite Pelican case is the 1620 with padded dividers. This is a large, deep case that carries just about all my still camera gear for any shoot. The extra deep case has two tiers of modular padded dividers. I keep one of these cases by the door of my office, so that I am ready to travel at a moment’s notice. On an assignment with little notice, I just snap the case shut, roll it out the door into my van, and know that I have everything I need for a stills shoot.

I pack my coolers so that they weigh no more than 70 lb when traveling overseas. This is because airlines that fly to/from an international destination and to/from the US are required to allow two bags at 70 lb each at no additional charge.

When you fly within the US, however, the rules have changed. I know United Airlines’ policy the best. They used to allow the above. Now they allow two free bags at 50 lb each. Anything from 51 lb to 100 lb costs $25 per bag. I therefore bring a copy of United’s baggage rules (from their website) and try to pack my bags to 100 pounds. This is not difficult since I often bring copies of my books on my trips and talks to sell or give away, and the dang books weigh 8 lb each. I get charged $25 per bag. This is my personal revenge on the airlines for surreptitiously changing the domestic baggage allowance from two bags at 70 lbs, to two bags at 50 lb, and saying that they were doing this in order to save their passengers money! Don’t you get tired of companies lying like this?

Back when United announced this and several other changes, I wrote a bunch of colleagues asking them to write to United to protest this change. United had proposed several other changes, and had backed down after receiving barrages of protest from their customers. I asked my friends and fellow photographers to write United about their upcoming baggage policy. Almost all of them were too lazy to send a letter, and a few of them wrote me, saying “Forget it, Norb. United is hurting, and they won’t change their policies.” These guys would rather write me saying “forget it, give up” than write the airline saying “please don’t change your policy.” That’s when I realized that most people, at least photographers, would rather whine and complain among themselves than take the time and trouble to write a letter. I’d also say that most photographers would rather whine and complain about how hard it is to make a living licensing the use of photographs than will actually take a stand on the business of photography with a client.

No comments: